Last week, we heard about Joel Schumacher's plans to cast Nicolas Cage as the Scarecrow in his planned third Batman movie, after Batman and Robin. It's enough to give you nightmares, and not in the way the Scarecrow is supposed to.
But Schumacher's Batman: Triumphant is by no means the only unfilmed superhero movie that could have helped hold the genre back from achieving greatness. Here are 10 other superhero movies that we're grateful we never saw.
Top image: Superman Vs. Batman fan art that's been all over the Internet, artist unknown. (Please let us know if you know the artist's name!)
Disclaimer: Obviously, we haven't read the shooting script for any of these films. We've only read reports about them, and in some cases draft scripts and script treatments (that could be fake) have leaked online. It's entirely possible that any of these projects could have turned into the greatest movie ever made — but we sort of doubt it.
10) Batman: Year One, directed by Joel Schumacher. The Nic Cage Scarecrow movie wasn't Schumacher's first choice for a followup to Batman and Robin. Originally, he wanted to make an adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's classic graphic novel, about Batman's early days. As Schumacher told Lifewhile in 1999, "I'd like to do a young, scaled down, de-constructed Batman in a way. I think I owe the real hardcore dark Batman fans a movie." He also talked about doing an adaptation of Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Sadly, I don't know that we could have trusted Schumacher's instincts with Miller's graphic novels, after the two Bat-movies he managed to give us.
9) James Cameron's Spider-Man. We love Cameron, but his ideas on how to bring Peter Parker to the big screen seemed... kind of weird. In Cameron's scriptment, Peter Parker is a bitter jerk who goes around popping his zits and having an internal monologue about how all of the "losers" will be sorry after he's discovered a cure for cancer. Peter Parker is "a virgin. And apt to remain that way for a while. He's your basic sexually pent-up adolescent." This is dwelled on a lot. Flash Thompson smacks Mary Jane around and then the newly superpowered Peter puts on a mask and beats Flash up — Peter's first ever act of violence. Peter then stalks Mary Jane. Meanwhile, Uncle Ben never gives the "With great power comes great responsibility" speech. After Spidey starts fighting crime, he actually beats up some cops and later attacks some cops who are beating up an unarmed man, thus giving the cops a sound reason to hate him. The overall tone of Cameron's scriptment is way too bitter and mean-spirited for Spidey.
8) Wonder Woman You probably remember that at one point Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon was on board to write and direct a Wonder Woman movie. But around the time Whedon got sacked, Warner Bros. optioned a Wonder Woman screenplay by Brent Strickland and Matthew Jennison. The Strickland/Jennison screenplay (which you can apparently read here) takes place in World War II. Later, producer Joel Silver revealed that he'd hired Strickland and Jennison to write a new screenplay, set in the present day and not featuring Wonder Woman's origin. Strickland described it as "Wonder Woman meets Raiders of the Lost Ark." Unfortunately, going by their World War II screenplay, I'm not sure it would have been the best idea — the WWII script ends with Wonder Woman dying in an explosion and then meeting the goddess Hera, who explains that not all men are evil. The overall tone is a bit too melodramatic, with people saying things like "You shall not lead the Amazon as long as my blood still flows." Plus "Nooooooo!" It's not the version of Diana we'd like to see on the big screen.
7) Fantastic Four 3. While the untitled third entry in the Fantastic Four franchise never
got further than the discussion phase, there were hints as to what the film might have entailed. The studio liked the dynamic between the Four and the Silver Surfer, but was reluctant to finance the film without a similarly identifiable supporting hero. Director Tim Story hoped to remedy this by adding Djimon Hounsou to the cast as the Black Panther, likewise, Jessica Alba hoped to introduce Franklin Richards, the son of Sue Storm and Reed Richards (see Spy Kids 4 for what could have been), and Michael Chiklis promised the third movie would have emphasized the growing relationship between Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters, suggesting her creepy stepfather wouldn't be far behind. Julian McMahon was also locked for a third picture, so Dr. Doom might have remained a major antagonist. However, writer Don Payne stated, "I've always loved the Inhumans, the Skrulls, the Puppet Master, and Annihilus and the Negative Zone." As the series is currently undergoing a reboot, it looks like this surprisingly disjointed and chemistry-free incarnation of the Fantastic Four won't be returning, but as Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards) recently said, "These things have to move on, progress and evolve, and I wish them all the best."
6) Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4, aka Spider M4n. While details are hazy, Sam Raimi's third sequel in the franchise would have seen John Malkovich's Vulture terrorize New York, and rumor had it the Vulture would team up with his daughter, a new villain called the Vulturess. A possibly fake Raimi script treatment (which leaves out the Vulturess) would have had Spider-Man begin a relationship with fellow costumed vigilante The Black Cat after getting dumped by Mary-Jane (again) for his "self-righteousness" –- makes sense. The story would also have featured Max Dillion's transformation into Electro in an altercation with the Vulture — eventually leading him to grow twenty feet tall and exploding in a nuclear blast, once Black Cat convinces Spider-Man to induce an electrical overload by showing him her cleavage. The story ends with Peter renouncing his title as Spider-Man (again) and telling Mary-Jane to take a hike, after she asks for reconciliation: a move we can safely presume he'd come to regret once she starts dating Morbius in the rumored premise for Spider-Man 5.
5) Superman: Flyby. Back in 2002, J.J. Abrams penned Superman: Flyby, to be directed by Brett Ratner with a cast including Josh Hartnett, David Boreanz, Jude Law and Brendan Fraser. Abrams rewrote the Kryptonian canon, pitting Clark Kent's father Jor-El against his evil brother Kata-Zor in a civil war. Jor-El is sentenced to prison, but before he is taken custody, he sends his son Kal-El to Earth where he is raised by the Kents and falls in love with Lois Lane. When Clark Kent reveals his true identity, his cousin Ty-Zor and his three minions head to Earth to quash any challenge to Kata-Zor. Kal-El is killed and sent to Kryptonian heaven, where he meets his dead father, is resurrected, and then returns to Earth to finally defeats the four Kryptonians. The film would have ended with Kal-El flying towards Krypton, in a cliffhanger neatly setting up a sequel. Reportedly, in at least one script draft, Lex Luthor is a Kryptonian. And young Clark Kent gets into a fight with the Kents' rapist landlord.
4) Menahem Golan's Spider-Man. In a project alternately linked to three directors (Tobe Hooper, Joseph Zito and Albert Pyun) from the legendary Cannon group, this story would have seen Spider-Man transform into an actual Croenenbergian Man-Spider. According to Joseph Zito, director of Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter and The Prowler, producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were wholly ignorant of Spider-Man as a concept, and mistook the property for a creature-centric horror property. Zito's intervention would ultimately steer the production into more familiar territory with Spider-Man battling Bob Hoskins' Doctor Octopus, but left the production shorty afterward after having his budget slashed. Interestingly, the tumultuous production history neither prevented the company from releasing a teaser trailer (at left), nor permanently shelved the literal Man-Spider storyline – the producers of the 90's animated series recycled the idea in an epic fourteen-part storyline spanning the program's entire second season.
3) Superman vs. Batman. From the screenwriter of Se7en, this remarkably turgid take on the characters would have involved a recently divorced Clark Kent teaming up with Batman five years after his retirement, currently despondent since the recent murder of his wife at the hands of (who else?) The Joker. To make matters worse, it's also set several years after the deaths of Alfred, Gordon and Dick. And yes, Superman and Batman would be tricked into fighting each other, until they realized that they were duped, and then they'd team up to go after the real enemy. The duo's investigation would unspool a tangled plot leading back to Lex Luthor. Set to shoot in 2003 with director Wolfgang Peterson after a rewrite by Akiva Goldsman (Lost in Space, Batman Forever, Angels & Demons), Warner Bros. eventually decided it would be far more lucrative to split the heroes into their own respective films, theoretically doubling their profits in the process. Superman Vs. Batman fan art, artist unknown, via SuperheroHype
2) Tim Burton's Superman Lives! In the late 90's, Kevin Smith wrote Superman Lives! under the direction of producer Jon Peters, who insisted the Man of Steel wear an all-black suit, be unable to fly and fight a giant spider at the end of the movie. Smith's script was based on The Death of Superman and involved Brainiac blocking out the sun to render the solar-fueled Superman powerless, where he'd then send Doomsday to finish him off and the take control of Metropolis. The plan works and Superman is killed, but is later resurrected by Kryptonian robot, The Eradicator. Protected by the Eradictor's shell, Superman eventually regains his powers and defeats Brainiac alongside his giant spider. When Tim Burton was hired to direct the film, he had major issues with the script and tried to bring in his own writing team. (Burton and Smith eventually clashed over the "Ape Lincoln" imagery on Burton's Planet of the Apes, which Smith felt was lifted from an early Jay & Silent Bob comic book.) Nicholas Cage was infamously cast as Superman, but production delays and infighting led to Warner Brothers setting the project aside in favor of The Wild Wild West — in which Peters finally got his giant mechanical spiders.
1) Robert Smigel's Green Lantern This Jack Black vehicle from the creator behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog would have seen furniture salesman and Green Lantern, Jud Plato, asphyxiate criminals with emerald thought-condoms. Writer Robert Smigel put it best when he told Vanity Fair, "I'm a huge Peanuts fan, so if I heard they were doing a new Peanuts with Jack Black as Charlie Brown, I'd be mad, too. And I'd be twice as mad if I heard I was writing it." Image via FansShare